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  • The Art of Inheriting Secrets

  • A Novel
  • By: Barbara O'Neal
  • Narrated by: Stina Nielsen
  • Length: 12 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 76
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 75

When Olivia Shaw’s mother dies, the sophisticated food editor is astonished to learn she’s inherited a centuries-old English estate - and a title to go with it. Raw with grief and reeling from the knowledge that her reserved mother hid something so momentous, Olivia leaves San Francisco and crosses the pond to unravel the mystery of a lifetime. One glance at the breathtaking Rosemere Priory and Olivia understands why the manor, magnificent even in disrepair, was the subject of her mother’s exquisite paintings. What she doesn’t understand is why her mother never mentioned it to her.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fabulous Story!

  • By Donna on 09-14-18

A Departure from Recent Work - Good but ...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-03-18

I have become a big fan of Barbara O'Neal/Barbara Samuel. I thought each book was slightly better than the previous book and I loved her focus on the southwest, food, and friendship. This book was a real switch to me. More gothic, set in England, still with a focus on food but not so much on friendship. It was an enjoyable read but didn't seem nearly as authentic or plausible as her previous books. The reader has to really stretch their ability to accept the unacceptable for this storyline to be remotely plausible. For someone so distressed over her mother's death and who was supposedly quite close to her, the mom seemed to have been very busy behind the daughter's back.

However, although I felt there were some disconnects, some loose ends that were never tied up and the author was clearly outside her element, this was still an enjoyable book.

  • Being Mortal

  • Medicine and What Matters in the End
  • By: Atul Gawande
  • Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
  • Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,237
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 6,342
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,331

In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Required Reading!

  • By Jeffrey on 10-13-14

Important Message, Beautifully Delivered

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-03-18

I was hesitant to read this book as someone who still feels scarred and angry about the options available to my dad and step-mother as they faced the end of their lives and it has been over 3 years since they died. I came out of that experience vowing to never see a doctor again since I was approaching the age where there is a pill for everything, where people seem to spend at least 50% of their time sitting in Drs. waiting rooms and our value to society is merely to feed the healthcare monster. To me healthcare, after a certain age is a very slippery slope.

I was very glad that Gawande appreciates the terrible problems with end-of-life care, was happy to read of alternatives starting to be available and was very appreciative of his words about determining what is the bottom line that makes existence palatable. The idea of knowing ahead what you must have at a minimum in order to have a life worth living, whether it is time, freedom from pain, the ability to eat, or some other benchmark is a remarkable idea and very helpful.

The writing was clear and concise. It was sad, but not morbid and not sentimental. The narration was wonderful. I highly recommend

  • Dawn on a Distant Shore

  • By: Sara Donati
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 20 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,873
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,612
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,613

Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner have settled into their life together at the edge of the New-York wilderness in the winter of 1794. But soon after Elizabeth gives birth to healthy twins, Nathaniel learns that his father has been arrested in British Canada. Forced to leave Hidden Wolf Mountain to help his father in Montreal, Nathaniel himself is imprisoned and in danger of being hanged as a spy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great great great

  • By I like to shop on 05-10-16

Still Searching for Originality

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

I almost reluctantly read this book. I was not a fan of the first book in the series, although I finished it. There were moments it was pretty good, but much of it wasn't. However, there was some kernel within the story that drew me in and made me invest the time to finish it and start this 2nd book in the series.

Even though the characters from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series are not mentioned in this book, as they were in the first, there was no logical reason to move much of the plot to Scotland, include a perilous sea voyage with the main characters separated on two different ships, include treacherous pirates, etc. Except that each of these themes seemed to be popular in the Outlander series.

This book was actually slightly better written and the characters more developed. However, I didn't like it as much as I did the previous book and that is saying something. I think what I disliked the most was the fact that it seemed totally unconnected to the first book and almost shameless in its attempt to attract a specific audience. I would have stopped here, but I read the synopsis of Queen of Swords, a later book in the series and it intrigued me.

  • Into the Wilderness

  • Wilderness Saga, Book 1
  • By: Sara Donati
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 30 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,176
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,688
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,695

Weaving a vibrant tapestry of fact and fiction, Into the Wilderness sweeps us into another time and place...and into the heart of a forbidden, incandescent affair between a spinster Englishwoman and an American frontiersman. Here is an epic of romance and history that will captivate readers from the very first page.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful surprise

  • By I like to shop on 04-26-16

Only Worth Reading for Background on Future Books

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

I tried to read this book a few years ago. I quit because it seemed to be so unoriginal and blatantly commercial. The author borrowed one of her primary characters from James Fenimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans" and also brought in characters from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, all of which said to me that the author was so unsure of her own ability to write a book people would like on its own merits, that she resorted to gimmicks to attract an audience. And as I read a little about the author, including her own words from her own website, I read nothing that convinced me her book was nothing more than an attempt to capitalize on others success. She seemed to have a real chip on her shoulder about other's success.

However, several months ago I purchased "The Gilded Hour" because the time period attracted me and I failed to note the author until I'd already purchased. I read it anyway and was pleasantly surprised. This made me decide to give her earlier series another chance. Especially because "The Gilded Hour" follows a later generation of the characters in "Into the Wilderness."

This time I made it through. "Into the Wilderness" is not a great book. There are moments when it is good. Much of the storyline makes little sense or is implausible at best, and her historical research is weak. Donati tries too hard in this book. And she fails to follow the one rule that is critical when you are at the beginning of a long book that is part of a longer series following the same characters. You have to take the time for the reader to get to know the characters as themselves. And you can't do this when they are thrown from crisis to crisis and constantly in danger from somewhere. There needs to be some downtime, where they lead normal lives without catastrophe hovering about. My guess is it is hard to write that kind of scene into a book and make it interesting to the reader, but good writers of sagas do it well. Donati did not.

Nevertheless, there was something appealing about the book and I not only finished it, I moved on and read the rest of the series. I was very happy that I did.

  • A Man Called Ove

  • By: Fredrik Backman
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 60,276
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55,151
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55,055

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell". But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I Laughed and I Cried

  • By Bill on 08-22-15

Shockingly Surprised

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

I put off reading this book because I was certain I would not like it. I do not like curmudgeons or books about curmudgeons. It sounded as if it had very little plot and even less action. The story sounded sad and depressing. But mainly I didn't read it because so many people recommended it and I usually hate books that everybody loves.

I was wrong. Great book. Hysterically funny in parts. The cat is one of the most underrated characters in modern fiction. Ove is the poster child of curmudgeons, but that is somehow OK. I laughed. I cried. Read it.

  • The Book of Essie

  • A Novel
  • By: Meghan MacLean Weir
  • Narrated by: Robbie Daymond, Tara Sands, Erin Spencer
  • Length: 11 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 365
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 343
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 343

Esther Ann Hicks - Essie - is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a reality television phenomenon. She's grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family's fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie's mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show's producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia's? Or do they try to arrange a marriage - and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hope for the future 💗

  • By Amazon Customer on 06-23-18

More Believable than the Blurb Led Me to Believe

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-05-18

Very interesting book with several twists and turns I didn't expect. There were some slow patches, especially in the Libby Bell sections, but overall the plot was tight and moved smoothly. The main characters were sympathetic and the villains were sufficiently villainous. Essie's sometimes detachment about her situation and the terrible things done to here was at first unbelievable, but then the author skillfully made it a coping method. I wish there had been a little more information at the end. What happened to Essie's parents, their TV show, fortune, church? But wanting more at the end of a book is a sign the reader is committed to the book, so that's a good thing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Very, Very, Very Dreadful

  • The Influenza Pandemic of 1918
  • By: Albert Marrin
  • Narrated by: Jim Frangione
  • Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 17

In spring of 1918, World War I was underway, and troops at Fort Riley, Kansas, found themselves felled by influenza. By the summer of 1918, the second wave struck as a highly contagious and lethal epidemic and within weeks exploded into a pandemic, an illness that travels rapidly from one continent to another. It would impact the course of the war, and kill many millions more soldiers than warfare itself.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very, Very, Very Frightening

  • By Lulu on 04-22-18

Very, Very, Very Frightening

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-22-18

I've read books and seen documentaries in the past about the Influenza Pandemic and always found it fascinating. For some reason, I was in the mood to read more about the subject and this book showed up on Audible as a new release. I like the narrator, Jim Frangione, so I purchased without reading the description in detail.

The book started off well but seemed a little simplistic in its explanation of early humans. It became more detailed and specific in the discussion of virus and bacteria but still read like it was written for someone who'd never heard the words before. The same was true about his explanation of World War One. This made me wonder about the author, led me back to the book description in Audible and that is when I noticed the book was written for 11 to 14-year-olds. Explained a lot.

It was interesting enough I decided to keep reading and once he started relaying the specifics of this pandemic, where it started, how it spread, how awful contracting the disease was, including personal comments from survivors, family members of those who died, the doctors and nurses who tried to help, the book really picked up. He included extremely graphic and disturbing descriptions of exactly how this flu attacked the body and ultimately killed a person. Far more so than I had read in books written for adults. Gory, but educational. He also touched on how the pandemic affected the war, ultimately becoming a deciding factor, how it was treated and interpreted in countries across the world, not just in North America and Europe, which was very interesting. And most fascinating to me every time I read about it - how it traveled from country to country, continent to continent.

He ended with a discussion about what researchers have done in the last 100 years to learn more about this specific virus, what world organizations are involved in the process and how they have used their research to try and minimize flu epidemics we see now. He compared it to more recent viruses such as Bird Flu and finally discussed attempts to recreate a super virus in the lab and how controversial and dangerous that was.

My main takeaway was that I was a child of the Cold War. I remember fallout shelters and emergency preparedness drills. But I don't think teachers or parents ever told me in minute detail about the physical effects of radiation poisoning, how it would attack the body, how painful it would be or the true devastation of a nuclear war. I did not grasp how terrible the consequences would be or how close we came to suffering them. If they had, I can't imagine how scared I would have been.

If I was an 11 to 14-year-old reading this book about the horrors of this flu pandemic, the threat, and chances of another pandemic and the fact that we were creating super viruses in labs that were capable of as much devastation, if not more so, I don't think I would sleep at night for months.

11 to 14-year-olds today must be a lot more inured to violent and painful attacks on humans than I was. This book seemed awfully graphic to me for that audience.

On the other hand, if an adult knows little about this pandemic and wants a brief but substantial overview, this would be a good place to start.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • How to Stop Time

  • By: Matt Haig
  • Narrated by: Mark Meadows
  • Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 602
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 565
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 564

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history - performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life. So Tom moves back his to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher - the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Immortality is a bummer

  • By Emily - Audible on 02-09-18

How to Stop Time? Read this Book.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-22-18

I was really looking forward to this book. I was a big fan of Haig's book The Radleys. And this got so much good prepress I was excited to read it. Unfortunately, as so often happens, prepress is deceiving. This book focuses on a man who looks around 40 but is actually closer to 500 years old. Evidently, there is a small group of humans who do not age at the same rate as everyone else, who loosely band together to protect each other and their secret. Tom Hazard, the main character, discovers the group when he finally gets a doctor to believe how old he is, and then the doctor is promptly killed because of the knowledge. Tom reluctantly buys into the group, their secrecy and how they manage to hide in plain sight. He also helps with the occasional dirty work, which can include murder. He does this because he is hopeful the group can help him find his real daughter who he believes has the same condition and has been alive almost as long as he has.

Unfortunately, the plot seemed to take the title literally. It moved so slowly, it was difficult to detect movement at all. I can handle slowly developing plots and I can handle plots that focus on a very depressed person. But I can't handle slow plots about depressed persons. It just wears me down. Haig is a brilliant writer of prose and can make the most unbelievable story believable. But this story could have been told in about half the time and would have been twice as good.

  • Fever

  • A Novel
  • By: Mary Beth Keane
  • Narrated by: Candace Thaxton
  • Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 736
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 674
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 671

Mary Mallon was a courageous, headstrong Irish immigrant woman who bravely came to America alone, fought hard to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic service ladder, and discovered in herself an uncanny, and coveted, talent for cooking. Working in the kitchens of the upper class, she left a trail of disease in her wake, until one enterprising and ruthless "medical engineer" proposed the inconceivable notion of the "asymptomatic carrier" - and from then on Mary Mallon was a hunted woman.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • "Faction" at its best

  • By karen on 01-27-16

A Very Tepid Fever at Best

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-22-18

While Typhoid Mary isn't exactly a sympathetic character, she did spread the disease even after she knew she was doing so after all, initially, she was treated horribly. There was still a great deal of skepticism about the theory that an asymptomatic person could still spread a deadly virus, and even the theory itself would likely have not made itself known in the working classes, yet the doctors seemed shocked that she was reluctant to turn herself into a guinea pig for them.

However, by the end of the book, it was difficult to find any sympathetic characters. I think the only thing I took away from this fictionalized version of a real life was that Typhoid Mary deserved to be quarantined, but the doctors and "engineers" who treated her were no more redeemable than she was and probably deserved the same fate. I don't know how accurate my view is based on this book. The characters were dry, one dimensional and shallow. But whether they actually were or if that is how the author portrayed them, I don't know. Can't really recommend this book.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow

  • A Novel
  • By: Amor Towles
  • Narrated by: Nicholas Guy Smith
  • Length: 17 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,001
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 18,554
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18,489

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Brilliant, heartfelt, inspiring

  • By Jon K. Rust on 07-24-17

Ignoring Reality is Only Drawback

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-22-18

A beautifully written book about how one views the world. It is as large or as small as we choose to make it and for the Count, who spends 30+ years a prisoner inside one hotel, the world is very large. He may be the single most optimistic character in any book I've ever read, making Mary Poppins seem like a downer. Nevertheless, it shines.

It is clear that Amor Towles loves words. And while he often takes 40 words to say what could be said in 10, I can't begrudge him the excess because each word is so perfectly curated and placed. Also, the narration of those words was spot on. Beautifully read.

Unfortunately, while I have the imagination to accept that a prisoner could carve such a remarkable life out of two rooms in the attic of a grand hotel and the friends he makes through the years, it is harder to accept this premise when we know that going on outside the hotel is a country ruled with an iron fist by Stalin, a series of unsuccessful five year plans, starvation, overcrowding, the disappearance of friends and family through deportation, imprisonment or death. Oh, and World War II. No matter how grand the hotel is, it could not have been fully insulated from the despair surrounding it. This made the book ring untrue to me and kept it from being close to perfect.